Effects of motherhood on physiological and subjective responses to infant cries in teenage mothers: A comparison with non-mothers and adult mothers
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The present study was designed to determine whether becoming a mother during the adolescent period changes maternal responsiveness or maternal motivation, assessed through hormonal, autonomic, and hedonic responses to recorded infant cries and interactions with their babies. Fifty-six teen mothers were compared to 58 teen non-mothers and 49 adult mothers. Teen mothers reported more sympathy and alertness in response to recorded infant cries compared to non -mother teens; however, among the teen women there were no differences between mothers and non-mothers in heart rate and cortisol responses to infant cries. In contrast, in comparison to adult mothers, teen mothers reported the same levels of sympathy and alertness to infant cries; however, adult mothers showed an 'alerted' pattern of heart rate and cortisol response to infant cries not seen in the teen mother group. Inclusion of the covariate, fathers' employment classification as an index of SES or time of testing and cortisol sampling did not affect this pattern of results. Taken together, these results show that where self-report is used as a measure of maternal responsiveness, teen mothers are no different in responsiveness than adult mothers; however, where physiological and interactional measures of responsiveness are considered, teen mothers are less likely to show heightened or selective responses to infant cries or respond 'attentively' to the infant.
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